Recollections from Nancy Susan Boccadoro
Updated: Apr 19, 2021
What follows is a transcript of information provided by Nancy over the course of multiple emails with light editing for context and clarity. I've also added pertinent notes in blue italics for the same purpose.
April 19, 2021 update: images of marriage certificates for Bessie Prowse to William Pooley and Clara Barns/Prowse to Francis Charles Knight added courtesy of Malcolm Prowse.
The 7 Prowse sisters had distinct & different personalities. My mom corresponded with all her sisters, except Annie, Ian’s gran. Beside my mom, I spent the most time with Winnie when I would go to England as she graciously allowed me to make her flat my home base for several visits.
I first met Bessie in 1972 in England. A few years later she moved to Canada. However, at that time she had not decided to move to Canada. She did not have running hot water in her Council Housing. However, she had a gorgeous bathing pitcher, bowl, matching soap dish, etc. which I admired. Finding a pitcher and bowl with all the matching pieces is a rare find. It did not make the move to Canada with her. I should have expressed my interest in it at the time as it got sold at a rummage sale.
Elizabeth 'Bessie' Alice, September 1893 - December 9, 1993. She joined her daughter Muriel (Upton) and grandchildren, Marea (Prowse) and David in Canada after the death of her husband William Pooley.
According to my mom, Annie was a troublemaker and most of the sisters chose not to put up with her. It seems that Mildred did keep in touch with her, according to some of the photos we have seen.
Anne 'Annie' Margaret, Nov 3, 1894 - August 1975. Married Harry Davison and begat that line of which I am a part. The picture to the left includes Steven John (R) and David Alan Mattey (L)
Mildred Clara November 1897 (was always a Prowse as she married Jack Prowse, a cousin. He died in the 1930's I think). My mother always referred to Mildred as the jolly one. I only got to meet her twice, once in 1972 then again in 1976. She had 6 children: Margaret who was epileptic; a daughter Pat who has one son, Simon who is a solicitor in England; John - I think he had a daughter Claire; Edwin who was married to Doreen – she and I keep in touch with their two married daughters. There were two more boys, but I can't remember their names so there are some additional first cousins to me that I can't remember who they are.
Mildred’s death record says she was born in 1895 and her birth was registered in the first quarter of 1896, so Nov 1985 is likely the correct year. Jack's legal name was Samuel John, he died February 1931. John’s daughter Claire is unsubstantiated at this point; John was believed to be a bachelor. The other two boys were Alfred (youngest) and Herbert (eldest).
Maud Sophia July 28, 1899, died January 1990 (never married, no children). She was my Godmother. She was the sickly one and played that card a lot. When she got older, she frequently was hospitalized. Winnie was very good about going to the hospital when this occurred. She could be a little difficult and manipulative. I was born in 1951 and Maud came over to New York City in April 1952 for the Christening. She came again in 1960 or 1961 to visit us on the Cunard line-Sylvania, so you might find those records.
In addition to the trips mentioned above, she and her sister Doris sailed aboard the SS Europa in July 1939 to visit Susie (Trainor at that time, later Boccadoro) in New York.
Doris May 1904, died May 5, 1951 (had a significant other but never married, no children) She died 20 days before I was born. Doris was apparently EVERYONE’s favorite. Apparently she was very generous. Doris faithfully wrote to my mom every week or two until she died in early May 1951. I of course never had the pleasure of meeting her.
Doris’ second name was legally Emily. Her actual DOB per the 1939 Register of England and Wales is May 2, 1905, which also matches the England & Wales Birth Index.
Bertha Susan (Susie) December 1, 1906 - July 8, 1985 (my mom): 1926: SS George Washington, 1930: SS Homeric (My mother also went back to England via boat in 1948. The next time she went to England was when I took her over on my first trip to England - Dec. 1971 to Jan. 1972.
Winifred (Winnie) August 1908 - January 1998: Winnie was married to Eric Lindblom, a master tailor who worked for Bond Street. They had 2 sons: Stephen, February 1, 1942 & Robert April 21, 1945 – January 30, 2016. Each son has 3 children. Stephen has 3 grandchildren.
Stephen’s three children are Louise Jane (Loder), Jenny Elizabeth (Murphy) and Gareth Christopher. All are participants in the House of Prowse. I am only aware of one child of Robert’s, Stephen Mark b. 1981.
Parents: Clara Barnes (died: 1935 in Islington) & Edwin John Prowse. I think Edwin died in 1911 or 1912. My mother, Susie, told me that she and Winnie were placed in an orphanage for several years until Clara, remarried. Doris would have been pretty young, but I don't know if she was sent to the orphanage.
Clara's second husband, married 1917 was Charles Knight or Francis Knight.
Edwin died in the summer of 1911. He was born June 1856 in Barnstaple and is Malcolm’s great uncle. Clara was born November 9, 1868. according to the 1911 census, it does not appear that Doris was sent to the orphanage. Clara's second husband’s full name was Francis Charles Knight. They are not known to have any children together.
Neither my mom or Winnie talked much about their childhood. My mom did tell me that the orphanage was miserable. The meals were bland and meager. She said that she had to knit her own socks. She remembers her school playground being bombed during WWI. I of course never met Clara, my grandmother as she died before I was born. I think that she died of cancer. My mom said that she wasn’t all that pleasant.
As far as the older siblings taking care of the younger ones, there was probably some of that going on but you have to remember, once the girls reached age 14, their schooling ended and they went to work. Bessie was a master seamstress. I think that Winnie and Mildred also did some tailoring.
Winnie and Mildred are indeed both listed as seamstresses or tailoresses on census records.
My mom could knit & embroider but she couldn’t even sew a Halloween costume so she did not inherit the sewing gene. My mother's was a domestic, which is how she got to the United States. She was working for an American major who was stationed in England. The major's wife just happened to be the daughter of the man who started the National Cash Register Company, so she had plenty of money for domestic help. Mrs. Davidson paid for my mother's passage to the States in return for at least two years of continued service to her household.
Another post to follow on the storyline above.
Maud worked for Garrard Jewelers for a number of years. A fun fact, Garrard was the first official Crown Jewelers of the UK, charged with the upkeep of the British Crown Jewels. When Garrard had the crown for cleaning for the coronation, Aunt Maud got to put it on. Too bad we don’t have a fun photo of that! I guess it would be frowned upon even if folks kept their Brownie cameras at work! I have the emerald ring that she received from the company after she worked there for 25 years. I also have Maud’s mocha set which I think she purchased in Germany in the 1930’s when she took a trip there. I also have two gold medallions that Maud had made for me at Garrard’s. One is a St. Christopher and the other is Gemini, my zodiac sign. Oh and I still have the teddy bear & the King James Bible that Winnie sent over when I was born. A small doll with all the clothes that Maud knitted. I had new clothes made for a doll that Winnie & Eric sent to me when I was about 5. All the books that Maud & Winnie sent over & a cloth doll that Doris sent over before she died. Also a single pearl necklace that Mildred sent over when I turned 21. I also have Clara’s toasting fork & a pretty unattractive vase, that my mother said was an oil lamp at one time.
I certainly do not have a plethora of photos of the sisters and their families as my mum was on this side of the pond from 1926 on and only went back to England 3 times. I probably have some photos of Aunt Maud when she came over for a visit in 1961. She came over in 1952 for my baptism but I do not recall ever seeing any photos of that event.
There were twin brothers as well. Edwin Thorne and John Harry were born December 1903 and died September 1904, it is believed of diphtheria.
Assembled and edited by Ian Mattey
April 15, 2001